Tag Archives: Albuquerque

Former Albuquerque DA Calls APD a Criminal Enterprise Admits She Refused to Charge Cops

As she left office last month, Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg stated in a letter (embedded below) to U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez that the Albuquerque Police Department is comparable to a “criminal enterprise.” Brandenburg had decided not to seek a fifth term after she was targeted by the police, their union, and other politicians.

The reason for the harassment leveled at her and toward her family was that for the first time in her 14 years as a prosecutor she had chosen to file charges against cops. Within that same letter, Brandenburg also admitted that prior to that case she had refused to ever charge police officers. However, when video (embedded below) of APD Officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez executing James Boyd, a homeless man who had been camping just outside the city, was released, the publicity it generated and the clear evidence it showed forced her hand.

Brandenburg charged Sandy and Perez with murder and as the APD revenge campaign against her began any allies she had within the local government either turned on her or scrambled for cover. The very fact that she had charged two cops was even used to discredit her ability to run the prosecutor’s office by painting her as biased against the police. Brandenburg, who at one time was considered the most accomplished woman ever to work as a prosecutor, suddenly was being accused of incompetence and even found herself and her children the subject of criminal investigations.

Throughout the letter, Brandenburg referenced this retaliation she had faced as well as past acts of retribution the Albuquerque Police Department had directed against people that had dared to cross them. In addition, she mentions allegations from former Albuquerque Police Department records supervisor Reynaldo Chavez that body camera footage from shootings was edited or deleted. And in one of the opening paragraphs she acknowledges the worst kept secret on this and several other planets, that as a district attorney she absolutely refused to bring charges against police officers prior to the Boyd case.

Below are excerpts from that letter:

As you know, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has been under a Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justice for the past two years. Reasons for this are too numerous to recount here, but mast are obvious. one of the major areas of concern are the number of officer involved shootings and instances of unreasonable force by APD. In all fairness, our office has been part of that controversey, as we declined to criminally prosecute any officer involved in an officer involved shooting until January 2015.

When we made the decision in October 2014 to prosecute the officers in the Boyd shooting, a firestorm ensued that called into question the integrity of the eintire Bernalillo County Criminal justice system…

Since the Settlement Agreement was reached between APD and the Department of Justice, we have seen little progress. Please refer the independent monitor’s reports for more specific information. In his most recent report, James Ginger, noted the behind the scene reality was that APD has “almost no appetite for correcting behavior that violates existing policy.” Further, it was pointed out that investigations looking into use of force by officers appears “…preconditioned to rationalize or explain away officer conduct.” Throughout the monitoring process, APD has failed to comply and meet agreed upon standards and measures. In fact, their performance can accurately be characterized as grossly noncompliant.

In addition to failing to meet their obligations under the Settlement Agreement, other issues have arisen, calling into question the integrity of APD, and thus all agencies in the criminal justice system. Such includes numerous and serious alleged violations of IPRA in an attempt to cover up wrong doing, editing, deleting, and/or destroying lapel camera video in controversial officer involved shooting cases, a refusal to cooperate, and in fact, hinder Police Oversight Board investigations and recently problems with the APD lab and DNA analysis.

From the outside, looking in, it appears whenever a problem comes up, instead of honestly addressing it, APD engages in a cover-up. Many men and women of APD allege promotions are given to reward those who have “kept quiet” or maintained the chain of command’s version of the “truth”. Given this, change for the better is becoming a more and more distant reality…

Frankly, if any other group of individuals were acting the way APD has allegedly been acting, some of us in law enforcement might refer to them as a continuing criminal enterprise and/or engaged in the act of racketeering.

Of course, while it’s nice to have one of their own officially acknowledge it, none of these “revelations” are in the least bit surprising. While Albuquerque is one of the worst cities nationwide for police corruption, the APD is in no way unique in acting like “a continuing criminal enterprise,” nor was Brandenburg’s office anywhere close to alone in its refusal to prosecute cops.

DA Kari Brandenburg’s full letter to feds about APD by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd

James Boyd Murder by Albuquerque Police Officers Sandy and Perez

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New Mexico Cop Recorded Himself on Body Camera Stealing Drugs and Cash for Girlfriend

Normally cops “forget” to turn their body cams on right before they do something illegal. For Sergeant Roshern McKinney, a Grants, New Mexico police officer, it worked the opposite way. Instead of it “malfunctioning” right before he beat and/or shot someone, he inadvertently recorded himself stealing marijuana from the police station.

The video also showed him taking it to his girlfriend’s house and then engaging in a celebratory game of grab ass with her. The fun didn’t last long, though. Not only has he been busted for the “Bad Apples Gone Wild” video, but during the investigation of that some additional “behind the scenes” extras were uncovered. Apparently, this isn’t the first rodeo he stole drugs from and he’s also being accused of making off with almost $800 in cash.

Via KRQE.com (in Albuquerque):

According to confidential police sources, the Sergeant unknowingly recorded himself on duty last month. It shows him enter his private office at the police station, grab what appears to be marijuana, then drive to his girlfriend’s house.

At her house, the Sergeant is recorded saying he’s giving her marijuana for her father. Sources tell KRQE News 13 the lapel then shows the Sergeant’s girlfriend on his lap while he fondles her…

Through the investigation, the Sergeant is also accused of two other crimes while on duty, stealing marijuana along with close to $800 that was supposed to be submitted as evidence…

Wednesday, State Police arrested McKinney for distribution of marijuana, conspiracy, and two counts of embezzlement.

McKinney’s girlfriend was also arrested for conspiracy and distribution of marijuana. Both are booked at the Sandoval County Detention Center.

As of now, there’s no word on long it will be before McKinney is off paid vacation and back out there arresting people for stealing and drug possession.

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“I’m an Officer of the Law!” Belligerant, Drunk Cop, Who Wrecked Into Parked Car, Already Had Two DUI’s When Hired

On Friday August 12th, the Albuquerque police received a call about a drunk driver at the MATS Detox Center who had run into a parked car and had then began acting aggressively toward the staff of that detox center. Upon arriving at the location, they soon discovered that the drunken, belligerent driver was New Mexico State Police Officer Morgan Ortiz, who was obviously drunk and not just a little, but to the point he could hardly even stand up.

When questioned he began repeating “11” to each question in a potential tribute to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, i.e. “how much have you had to drink?” – “11” – “where were you coming from?” – “11” – etc., etc. Believe it or not, things got even a little weirder after that, once it was determined that this wasn’t Ortiz’ first drunken rodeo.

Via KRQE.com:

The reports go on to state that Ortiz was too drunk to be arrested for aggravated DWI and reckless driving. Instead, he was taken to a hospital and will be summonsed for the charges.

In the lapel video, Ortiz is heard yelling, “I’m an officer of the law.” Ortiz was even heard cussing at officers.

This was his third DWI, according to criminal records. He was previously convicted of DWI back in 2003 and 2004, both before his 21st birthday.

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As it turns out, Ortiz, 32, is a graduate of New Mexico State Police’s 89th academy in December 2015. He hadn’t even been patrolling the streets for a year.

“We put him through a battery of tests: psychological, medical tests that, unfortunately, after all the years of him being sober, something happened.” Chief Pete Kassetas said.

Kassetas said he was fully aware of Ortiz’s criminal record when he hired him, and took a chance on the young man.

“He’s embarrassed, he’s upset,” Kassetas said. “Obviously as the chief, I’m embarrassed and I’m not happy.”

Ortiz’s gun and badge have been taken from him and he’s been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of both the criminal case and an internal affairs investigation.

new-mexico- state-police-officer-morgan-ortizAs embarrassed and unhappy as Chief Kassetas is by this whole unpredictable outcome, he still hasn’t figured out what will be done with Officer Ortiz once he comes off the paid vacation they sent him on while his friends “investigate” this “unfortunate” incident. Although he states that his job is “in jeopardy,” it could be several weeks before the chief decides how hard to slap his wrist.

And remember, if you want to avoid getting arrested, just get really incredibly drunk to the point that they have to take you to the hospital and they’ll just send you home from there. See how that works out for you if you don’t have one of those Magic Suits in your closet.

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When Police Go Rogue on Facebook by Ken Armstrong of the Marshall Project

This post was shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader, via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. It was originally published by Ken Armstrong at themarshallproject.org.

Last week, Seattle police apologized for an incident in which a female officer arrested a 69-year-old man walking in the city with a golf club. She said he wielded the club as a weapon. He said it was simply a cane. Police video supported the man’s account.

But it was only after another discovery – made by a Seattle newspaper, The Stranger – that the police department removed the officer from street duty, assigning her to a desk.

The officer is white. The man she arrested with the golf club is black. Last year, the officer posted this on Facebook: “If you believe that blacks are NOT accusing white America for their problems then you are missing the point of the riots in Ferguson and the chronic black racism that far exceeds any white racism in this country. I am tired of black peoples paranoia that white people are out to get them. … I am tired of black people saying poor poor me …”

When Seattle’s police chief read those Facebook comments last week, she said she was “shocked and disappointed.”

Around the country, other chiefs can relate. So can other communities where officers – and sometimes, the police chiefs themselves – have posted Facebook messages that created controversy and sometimes led to suspensions or firings. Such episodes have played out on other social-media sites, of course. And, like the Internet itself, they extend beyond the United States. (In the United Kingdom, more than 150 officers have faced disciplinary action for bad Facebook behavior, including one constable who wrote: “Let’s not be so soft on these [worst expletive imaginable] out there.”)

But looking just at Facebook – and just at police in the United States – here’s a roundup of cases where officers have been accused of crossing a line when going online.

Marlin, Texas: A police sergeant was fired in August 2014 after posting this on Facebook: “The first day of the month! The day I absolutely LOVE going to the grocery store after putting in 120+ hours last month. I love being able to see how the useless lazy turd bags spend the hard earned money my working friends and I provided for them so they can sit of their lazy asses all month and drink the beer I am paying for. I especially love it in the summer so I can admire the thousands of dollars of ink they have adorning their unclean bodies as they smile at me with that mouth full of bling. Makes me want to help them take their groceries and help them load them into that Escalade with $4000 rims. I promise, if I ever snap and go on a killing spree, it will be in a supermarket on the first.” (Elsewhere in Texas, police have created Facebook dustups in Dallas, Emory, and Matagorda County.)

Jonesboro, Ark.: The same month that police sergeant was fired in Texas, the police chief in Jonesboro, Ark., resigned. The chief, on Facebook, called a newspaper reporter a “pro-dope smoking, law license revoked, left wing liberal.” He also called her “smelly,” and wrote: “Dealing with ole Sunshine is like trying to pick up a dog turd by the ‘clean end.’” Jonesboro’s mayor handed the chief a 30-day suspension, but the chief quit before serving it. (And he wasn’t the only police chief to resign last August over a Facebook post. The chief in Chickasha, Okla., did, too. Before that, so did the police chief in Williamston, S.C.)

Bainbridge Island, Wash.: On this island in the Puget Sound, police in 2010 shot and killed a mentally ill man, in a case that prompted a civil rights lawsuit and a $1 million verdict against the city. A week after the shooting, the officer who opened fire received a Facebook message from a Los Angeles cop, who flippantly referred to the shooting as “combat qual.” The Bainbridge officer responded, on Facebook, with: “no sweat here … bad guy should have listened a little better.” (A year later, a different Bainbridge officer was reprimanded for going on Facebook and writing of a crackdown on traffic offenses: “We rained terror on the island and no one was taken alive.”)

Portsmouth, Va.: In 2011, a police officer shot and killed an intoxicated, unarmed cook, a citizen of Kazakhstan who was struck 11 times. Afterward, the officer’s Facebook page – captured by The Virginian-Pilot before disappearing from the web – became the subject of an internal review. Among other postings, he described a photo of a box of handguns as his “box of VENGEANCE!” and wrote: “would be better if i was dirtying them instead of cleaning them!”

Boston, Mass.: Last year, a police officer for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority posted on Facebook: “Farther’s (sic) Day, the most confusing day in Roxbury.” The president of the Boston NAACP told television station WCVB, “It’s a sad commentary on what this gentleman thinks is going on in communities of color.” Afterward, the officer was stripped of his role as a police-academy drill instructor.

Indianapolis, Ind.: Television station WTHR aired an investigative report in 2009 about an Indiana state trooper’s Facebook posts. “I pick up trash for a living,” the trooper wrote. He boasted of drinking heavily and posted a photo in which a fellow police officer pointed a .357 Magnum at the trooper’s head. By matching Facebook’s timestamps with state patrol employment records, the station discovered that the trooper sometimes posted while on duty. The trooper subsequently resigned.

Albuquerque, N.M.: That trooper certainly wasn’t the only police officer to refer to people as garbage. In 2011, an Albuquerque police officer shot a man in the back after a traffic stop, killing him. Soon after, local media reported that the officer listed his job on Facebook as “human waste disposal.” No charges were filed against the officer for the shooting, but he did get a four-day suspension for his Facebook post.

New York City: In 2009, a New York City police officer described his Facebook status as “watching ‘Training Day’ to brush up on proper police procedure.” A few weeks later, that post was used to attack the officer’s credibility when a defendant he had arrested went to trial. (In “Training Day,” there is little, if anything, proper about the corrupt narcotics detective played by Denzel Washington.) Two years later, more than a dozen NYPD officers posted offensive comments about the West Indian Day Parade, leading to eventual discipline.

Monroe, La.: Responding to the protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a police officer in Monroe, La., went on Facebook and wrote: “Ive got an idea on how to clear the streets in Ferguson Missouri. Lets have a crop duster fly over and drop job applications.” The officer, who was subsequently placed on leave, also wrote: “I’m surprised the beauty salon didn’t have armed guards. That ‘good hair’ is expensive. Thats ghetto gold.” Police elsewhere also made Facebook posts about Ferguson that stirred controversy. That happened, among other places, in Elgin, Ill.;Glendale, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; Kansas City; and Seattle.

Volusia, Fla.: Before Michael Brown’s death, there was the controversy surrounding Trayvon Martin’s. In 2013, on the day George Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin’s death, a Volusia County Beach Safety officer posted on Facebook: “Another thug gone. Pull up your pants and be respectful. Bye bye thug r.i.p.” The following month, the officer was fired.

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Justice for Stanley Gibson or Just an End-Around Coroner’s Inquest Reforms?

Stanley L. Gibson

Stanley L. Gibson, a disabled Army vet, was murdered by Ofc. Jesus Arevalo on Dec. 12, 2011

Within the last few days, it’s been reported that Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is close to reaching a decision regarding the murder of Stanley L. Gibson by a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Additionally, reports have stated that Wolfson is “99% sure” that he will seek an indictment against Jesus Arevalo, the officer that fired 7 shots from an AR-15 into the Gibson’s back as he sat unarmed and clearly visible inside his car, which had been pinned and immobilized by several police vehicles. While there has been no official statement regarding what exactly this imminent decision might be or what charges may be sought, informed sources have indicated that within the next sixty days Wolfson will make up his mind whether the case will be put before a grand jury for a possible indictment against Arevalo.

At first glance, putting things in the hands of a grand jury would seem to be a step forward, in that it at least presents a possibility of Ofc. Arevalo being held accountable for his actions that day. Las Vegas police have a long and storied history of avoiding any sort of consequences for their heavy-handed tactics, no matter how blatant and deadly they have been. Steve Wolfson himself hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion when given the opportunity to make Las Vegas area law enforcement pay for their misdeeds.

A large part of the blame for this lack of accountability can be attributed to the long standing practice of determining whether police shootings were justified through the quasi-judicial Coroner’s Inquest process. Badly weighted in favor of exonerating the police rather than investigating the circumstances involved, the Coroner’s Inquests functioned more as a dog and pony show to construct a cover story than a fact finding  effort. As such, it should come as no surprise that only one single police killing was ever found to be unjustified (the DA still declined to prosecute the cops involved). The sheer odds of that being true over the course of 40+ years, including 378 shootings since 1990 alone, attest to the imbalance inherent in such a system.

William Mosher testifies during Coroner Inquest into the shooting of Erik Scott

Accelerating rates of officer involved shootings, many resulting in killings, along with outrage generated by the subsequent questionable exoneration of the police, led to demands to amend the Coroner’s Inquest. An overhaul of the Coroner’s Inquest was approved by county commissioners, including provisions to have victims represented by independent council in order to make the process more fair. However, this revised system of investigating shootings has never been implemented, due to the union representing Las Vegas area police (who not coincidentally believe Arevalo did nothing wrong) has advised them not to participate in Coroner’s Inquest proceedings because of their “adversarial nature.”

However, many of the original flaws within the Coroner’s Inquest system continue to exist and in some cases are even worse when grand juries are used to determine whether police and other officials should be prosecuted for questionable actions. Like the Coroner’s inquest, grand jury proceedings are conducted exclusively by the District Attorney’s office, who works closely with, and is often dependent on the cooperation of, police officers in order to secure convictions in cases they bring to trial. It is entirely up to them what evidence will be presented, who is called to testify, and how those witnesses  are questioned. In the past, prosecutors have often displayed a tendency to construct their cases in such a way so as to paint police in a favorable light. This conflict of interest was one of the most cited issues with the Coroner’s Inquest.

When the Government Prosecutes One of Its Own, the Scales of Justice are Tipped Heavily Against the Truth Coming Out

Even worse is the secrecy of grand juries. Nevada conducts their grand jury proceedings under what amounts to a full gag order. Nobody involved in a grand jury may  publicly disclose any of the evidence presented to the jury, information obtained by the jury, events or statements occurring in front of the jury, or even the results of an investigation by the grand jury. The lone exception to this is individual witnesses, who are limited to discussing their own personal testimony. Breaking these restrictions is a criminal act.

What this effectively means is that the DA’s office and the courts have complete control over what information goes before the jury and what is disclosed to the public afterwards. As lopsided as the Coroner’s inquest was, at least it was a public spectacle that was available to be scrutinized by the community at large. No such transparency exists with grand juries. Basically, a prosecutor can call only sympathetic or unconvincing witnesses and do a half-hearted  effort while questioning them to ensure the jury doesn’t find enough evidence to support a criminal charge and then hold their failure to issue an indictment up as  proof that a shooting was justified. Nobody outside of the grand jury room would be able to refute this assertion since everything took place behind closed doors and none of them are allowed to speak about what they saw.

Fact is, using a grand jury to determine whether police shootings should be prosecuted violates pretty much every aspect of the proposed reforms (from the Nevada ACLU) for the Coroner’s Inquest:

  • Allow the attorneys for both the officers and the victims to participate directly in the process and ask questions during the inquest;
  • Have a neutral presenter of facts that is not the District Attorney’s Office;
  • Be limited to relevant questions about the decedent and the involved officers;
  • Make determinations of fact and leave decisions about whether criminal charges should proceed to the District Attorney;
  • Follow the same Rules of Evidence used in courtrooms (this is one singular exception); and
  • Be fully transparent and open to the public.

Historically, indictments of police through the grand jury have been hard to come by. In general, bringing cases before the grand jury are the exception rather than the rule and there’s a reason for that. As stated by the attorney for the family of a man murdered by police in White Plains, NY after the grand jury decided not to indict the cops:

“…the grand jury is often used to cover politically for a figure, for a district attorney. So if the grand jury indicts, it’s not the district attorney’s fault. They simply presented the evidence, and the grand jury indicted. If the grand jury chooses not to indict, well, then the grand jury essentially is blamed, but that’s an anonymous group of 23 individuals.”

Nor is the idea that grand juries might be used as a smoke screen to protect rather than punish police a new concept. Just a few months ago Albuquerque, NM. suspended the use of grand juries to investigate police shootings after criticism of their use and the fact that (like Vegas) not one single shooting has ever been ruled unjustified:

For more than two decades, police officials have countered criticism of dozens of officer-involved shootings in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County by noting that every case is reviewed by a grand jury…

No one involved in the process can recall a single “unjustified” finding since the process was put in place in the late 1980s in response to criticism of police shootings at the time — even in a case in which the officer was fired and the city paid big bucks to settle a civil lawsuit.

Critics say that’s by design.

“It looks to me like a device that’s designed to give police a pass on shootings,” said Ray Twohig, a longtime civil rights attorney. “The public should have no confidence whatsoever in this process — there’s no independent investigation … The goal is: ‘Let’s not indict any cops…’ ”

Attorney Shannon Kennedy said…it is designed to treat officers differently from ordinary citizens.

“They are basically operating above the law,” she said. “Officers in APD know about this process; they know they will be exonerated. This contributes to more and more police shootings, because there is this culture of no accountability.”

District Attorney Wolfson himself hasn’t exactly inspired a lot of faith that he will do the right thing in cases of police abuse. In “DA statements” that have taken the place of the Coroner’s Inquest since they were put on hold, Wolfson has determined that cops shouldn’t be punished for kicking a restrained man suffering from diabetic shock in the head first because it “wouldn’t be in the community’s best interest” and later because Henderson cops are trained to kick people in the head while arresting them.

That there is enough evidence to support charges shouldn’t be in doubt being that there is a video of the shooting clearly showing that Stanley Gibson didn’t represent an imminent threat and statements by sources within LVMPD have confirmed that Jesus Arevalo knew about the plan to force Gibson from the car without using deadly force. If there was a video of anyone else unnecessarily shooting an unarmed person, that person would be sitting in jail awaiting a trial, not sitting at home on paid vacation like Jesus Arevalo is right now.

To ensure that there isn’t even the appearance of any sort of official favoritism being extended to police officers (or other government employees) Wolfson needs to do the right thing by charging Arevalo directly and placing this case in the hands of a trial jury, rather than gambling on a grand jury issuing an indictment first. A gamble that members of this community aren’t so sure he is willing to go “all in” on. Furthermore, any charges brought should include charge of murder, since that’s what truly happened that day.

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